Marc Boucher helps Maverick Boucher, 4, put on his shoes as Amanda Boucher stands by to assist at the Interfaith Family Shelter in Everett on Sunday. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Marc Boucher helps Maverick Boucher, 4, put on his shoes as Amanda Boucher stands by to assist at the Interfaith Family Shelter in Everett on Sunday. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

5 kids, 2 parents, 1 van: Everett family stares down homelessness

On Wednesday, the Bouchers will have nowhere to go. An Everett shelter has already extended stay twice past the 90-day deadline.

EVERETT — Five siblings ran around the Interfaith Family Shelter’s yard with nearly boundless energy Sunday, riding kid-sized bikes on the pavement, kicking around a soccer ball and climbing on the play structure.

They played, talked and argued among themselves in a world of their own.

For their watching parents, Amanda and Marc Boucher, the day was overshadowed by a looming deadline. On Wednesday, the Boucher family will have nowhere to go.

The shelter can only house people for 90 days, with extensions granted in special circumstances, due to city permit and government grant requirements. The Bouchers’ stay has already been extended twice, once by 10 days, then three more. Their time is almost up. They’ll have to move into their van, all seven of them plus a dog, until they can find shelter somewhere else.

The children range in age from 2 to 11 years old.

The Bouchers have fallen through the cracks of a system that doesn’t have the resources to support them.

Often shelters will “offer women and children a room, and then the father has to move on,” said Brenda Bolanos-Ivory, an advocate for the homeless who has been trying to help the Bouchers. “And then suddenly he’s broken up with his family.”

The Bouchers are unusual, she said, in that Marc isn’t willing to be separated from his wife and children.

That’s because separation is hardly possible for them. Amanda has health problems that leave her disabled. Most recently she has been dealing with epileptic seizures, exacerbated by stress, as often as every other day.

Mia Boucher, 9, playfully adds a sticker over the “2” in a notice that allows only 21-year-olds in the smoking area while her sister Makayla Boucher, 11, plays on a phone. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Mia Boucher, 9, playfully adds a sticker over the “2” in a notice that allows only 21-year-olds in the smoking area while her sister Makayla Boucher, 11, plays on a phone. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Her health conditions mean Marc has to be a full-time caregiver for his entire family. He watches Amanda constantly for seizures while doing the bulk of the child care. Because of the demands of taking care of the kids and Amanda’s disabilities, neither parent can work.

The family has struggled to find affordable housing since coming to Washington from Rhode Island in 2019, the latest of several cross-country moves. On the East Coast, where Marc is from, they had their own apartment.

They decided to come back to Washington to be closer to Amanda’s elderly father. Due to his landlord’s rules, her father isn’t able to take them in.

For four years, the Bouchers lived in the Days Inn in Mount Vernon.

Life in the hotel was “pretty normal,” Amanda said. They had an air fryer and Instant Pot to cook food and the kids had their own beds. Both parents were working at Walmart at the time, jobs they lost after getting sick early in the pandemic.

For a time, Amanda also worked as a certified nursing assistant. She lost her job, she said, because she was nervous about getting vaccinated and then couldn’t get an appointment in time. She is now fully vaccinated, she said.

Things went downhill. The hotel fell into disrepair, with mold growing in the room. The family moved into their car for three months, stayed at another hotel, then back to the car.

Living in the car was miserable. All of the Bouchers’ belongings were piled in the back.

At night, Marc sometimes folded down the back seats for the kids to sleep. But when it rained, everything in the car got wet, he said. So the whole family had to sleep sitting up.

From left, siblings Mason Boucher, 8, Karter Boucher, 2, and Mia Boucher, 9. On Wednesday, the family will will have to leave the shelter and move into their van. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

From left, siblings Mason Boucher, 8, Karter Boucher, 2, and Mia Boucher, 9. On Wednesday, the family will will have to leave the shelter and move into their van. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Every detail of daily life was an ordeal: finding bathrooms, showering and preparing food.

Marc’s calves are red and swell up due to the car seat cutting off circulation in his legs. His legs feel like “fire,” he said, when he’s up on his feet for long.

Finding somewhere to park at night was difficult. Security guards sometimes told them to leave parking lots.

At least once, Amanda went to the gym and pretended to work out so the kids could get some rest outside.

A few times, the family got the police called on them when the kids were yelling at each other — inevitable with five siblings in close quarters.

And there was almost nowhere to use the bathroom after a certain time at night.

Interfaith has been a temporary reprieve. The family has found friends.

Outside the shelter, Marc said, the Bouchers don’t know any other families struggling with housing instability.

Staying there, he said, “gives the kids a chance to socialize with people that understand what they’ve been through. If my kid says, ‘Oh, I slept in my car before,’ the other kid’s like, ‘Me too!’”

Now, they’re going to have to leave that environment behind.

Over a week ago, Amanda spoke for the family at an Everett City Council meeting and a County Council meeting. Afterward, a city social worker visited, she said, but the family had already tried the resources the social worker suggested.

Marc Boucher walks his wife Amanda’s service dog Loki. Amanda Boucher has health problems that leave her disabled. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Marc Boucher walks his wife Amanda’s service dog Loki. Amanda Boucher has health problems that leave her disabled. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

There are few options in the short-term. Bolanos-Ivory is helping them apply for disability benefits, but hasn’t been able to secure them housing.

They have an Amazon wish list for essentials.

The family hopes that by speaking out they can shake the stigma of homelessness.

Families don’t normally talk openly about being homeless, Marc said.

“Usually they’re hiding,” he said.

The Bouchers aren’t going to hide.

“We’re not like normal people,” Marc said. “We don’t care what people think.”

Correction: A previous version of this story said the Bouchers’ stay was extended an additional two days, but it was extended an additional three days.

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

How to help

Those wanting to send the Bouchers items from their wish list can enter the following address:

Boucher Family

C/o Bolanos-Ivory

5501 S. 2nd Ave.

Everett, WA, 98203

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